With a rise in elder abuse and assaults in aged care facilities in Australia, there’s a call for closer checks and background screenings on the aged care workers and staff who care for the elderly.

According to the Department of Health, they received 2853 reports of physical abuse and assaults against residents during 2016-2017.

This included 2463 cases of alleged unreasonable force and 348 cases of alleged sexual contact.

An overwhelming majority of these cases accuse a staff member who works at the facility.

Typically aged care workers are required to undergo police checks, however, it is only if there have been convicted of murder, sexual assault or been jailed for assault that they are prohibited from employment.

And people who have been fired from other aged care facilities are still able to receive employed in the aged care industry.

Queensland’s Public Guardian, Natalie Siegel-Brown, says that police checks are not enough to ensure the safety of Australia vulnerable population.

“Greater protection of residents from abuse and poor practices might be achieved if there were consistent national processes for the screening of aged care workers,” Seigel-Brown told a Senate enquiry.

“In Queensland, the Blue Card system assesses a person’s suitability to work with children. The aged care regime would benefit from a similar mechanism to assess a person’s suitability to work in aged care”.

The Blue Card system that Siegel-Brown speaks of is a key prevention and monitoring system of people working with children and young people in Queensland.

Screening for Blue Cards assesses a person’s eligibility to hold a blue card based on their known past police and disciplinary information. This process also disqualifies certain people upfront and prevents people from working with children whose past behaviour indicates they are not eligible to enter regulated child-related employment.

According to the Queensland Government’s website. “The purpose of the blue card system is to contribute to the creation of safe and supportive environments for children and young people when receiving services and participating in activities which are essential to their development and well-being, such as child care, education, sport, and cultural activities.”

The Blue Card system, and having staff searches, are a more comprehensive system than police checks because they also include police charges, workplace disciplinary proceedings and older “spent” convictions, on top of the usual criminal convictions.

The Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, said that “if there was an agreement to implement a national Blue Card scheme that covers broad range of industries and extends beyond childcare and youth, we would consider such a scheme for aged care.”

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